October 14 Link Roundup

Today is my birthday as well as the 69th anniversary of supersonic flight!

News: Here’s what happened each year during Obama’s terms.

Psychology: How is schizophrenia treated differently in more collective societies?

Biology: One researcher argues that humans have a maximum lifespan of 115 years (with very rare exceptions) after examining statistics of aging populations. Others disagree. Skeletally, it’s all downhill after 25…

So many people are dying of heroin overdoses that there’s an organ boom. Unintended consequences!

Computers: A programmer created a bot that emulated her deceased friend. She and other friends interact with the bot and describe it as very accurate. Most of my deceased friends still have Facebook accounts (memory pages), and every time I get an update like “It’s X’s birthday! Let him know you’re thinking of him” I really don’t know how to react. It’s very different from, say, finding a card my grandmother wrote me, because it’s in the present and Facebook is suggesting opening lines of communication that I can’t handle. Mourning is complicated!


October 7 Link Roundup

News: This Monday marked the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street, when Jewish locals, Irish dockworkers, communists, housewives, and schoolchildren stood up against British fascists and the police protecting them. Many of the anti-fascist protesters are now in their 90s and have incredible stories to tell. There will be a commemorative march in London this Sunday.

If last week’s creepy clown news had you frightened, don’t read this.

Psychology: What can doctors and psychiatrists do when individuals have positive experiences with psychosis?

Many people describe their experience of psychosis as enriching or even ecstatic. One of my patients is promised a seat at God’s side in heaven. Another cries quietly while she describes how Jesus’ love keeps away the demons that infest her world. One describes his ability to take the pain from others; another has the power to see the future. Sometimes psychotic ideas are engrossing — a patient spent the summer contemplating the nature of substance and sound, and found them ultimately to be indistinguishable.

Trials of hallucinogen-assisted (magic mushrooms and their chemical derivatives) therapy continue to produce positive results. For more information on campaigns to legalize this type of therapy, check out MAPS.

Psychologists wonder about the ethics of implanting false memories if it makes people happier.

Science: My best friend worked on this project, which discovered a molecule that decreases the time it takes for mice to solve mazes and could have implications for neurodegenerative diseases and brain trauma. (But if you use the phrase “brain hacking” I am going to smack you.)

Sex: Holly Dunsworth over at Sapiens asks when (in evolutionary history) sex became fun, pointing out the male-centered way of thinking:

So it’s the manual work, not the manhood’s, that’s topping off the pleasure in the female half of the species. I’ve never heard a paleontologist, most of whom are men, describe an ancient fossil finger as evidence for the dawn of pleasurable sex. Why do you suppose that is?

Self-driving cars: In this new game from MIT, you can now judge the morality of a variety of brake-failure situations!

Fun: The economics of dining as a couple. I’m a food communist, as long as you keep your hands off my 3/4 of the pizza. That’s how communism works, right?

Coming up:

I’m teaching a class (for the third year running!) on migration and health. If you see any articles about this in the news, please send them my way!

In just over a week I’ll be running the Amsterdam marathon! A group of Egyptologists is raising funds to support the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity; our friend Max has just had the good news that he’s sarcoma-free as a result of their clinical trial (just in time for his daughter’s birth). If you’d like to make a donation, it could help someone else.